By EMMIE V. ABADILLA
The ongoing public bus transportation reform in Metro Manila and the new traffic system on EDSA will speed up travel for millions of commuters.
The Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) lauded the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for implementing the two complementary reforms.
New busways in the innermost lanes of EDSA are replacing existing, ineffective, yellow bus lanes.
DOTr Secretary Arturo Tugade is also rationalizing bus franchises and restructuring routes.
Bus operators will likewise benefit from the reforms because they can optimize their passenger capacities which will otherwise stagnate in traffic congestion.
They can earn more if they operate their bus fleets more efficiently, FINEX underscored.
The inclusive approach will leave no operator behind, says Eduardo H. Yap, chairman of the national affairs committee of FINEX.
He has been batting for these kind of reforms since the 8-hour carmageddon in August, 2015 which stranded thousands in the streets.
Dedicated busways to be used in the DOTr initiative was introduced 47 years ago in Curitiba, Brazil.
By 2018, 146 such busway systems are in operation worldwide with over 30 million passenger trips per day.
Hence FINEX officially endorsed the bus reforms.
For decades, Metro Manilans have suffered severe traffic congestion and poor public bus transportation service.
Already, economic opportunity losses due to traffic previously placed at P2.4 billion per day have risen to P3.5 billion before the government imposed enhanced community quarantine over Luzon.
The public health cost due to exceptionally long and stressful travel plus air pollution is also high.
Now, new busways on existing inner road lanes of EDSA will enable access to be controlled, dedicated exclusively for accredited public buses and protected from disruption by other vehicles.
Properly implemented, they will be more efficient than the defunct yellow bus lanes.
“We acknowledge that change is always difficult,” according to FINEX. “There are both structural and behavioral challenges to surmount.”
Service integration and rationalization require a paradigm shift on the part of the bus operators and for road space allocation.
Existing physical obstacles constructed along the inner lanes of EDSA pose some difficulty to the new busways.
But the public will welcome the upcoming improvements over the status quo.
The DOTr is implementing the new busways system in phases and with interim measures.
This is to cope with the existing infrastructure constraints, and comply with requirements of theInter-agency Task Force on Emerging Diseases (IATF).
The temporary platforms that will constrict car lanes will be removed and shifted to the center island as soon as buses are retrofitted with left side door.
Ideally, this should happen before the busy Christmas holiday season.
Ease of access to the platforms is very important for convenience of commuters.
Sharing the use of existing bridges and stairs of the MRT3 system will save much implementation time.
“We hope there will be adequate space for bus passengers when the MRT3 facilities are dual-purposed,” according to FINEX.
And if there is need to resort to ground level crosswalks for access to bus stations, they should be equipped with signages and safety devices to avoid accidents.
Troopers of the PNP Highway Patrol Group will be fielded to assist MMDA traffic supervisors to ensure safety of commuters and motorists, while attending to possible choke points.
“We trust adequate funding will be provided these vital reform projects,” the organization noted.
These new busways and bus service reforms signal the evolution of the commuting experience in Metro Manila.
“We look forward to the day when our public transport system achieves world class standards and enables economic growth and prosperity for the Filipino.”